Wednesday, March 01, 2017

LGC Newsletter – February 2017


Guantánamo Bay:
The first periodic review board hearing under President Trump was held on 9 February with a hearing for Yemeni prisoner Omar Mohammed Ali Al-Rammah. The procedure was conducted in the same manner as it was under President Obama. Al-Rammah has been held at Guantánamo since 2003 and is alleged to have fought in Bosnia and Chechnya; he was kidnapped in Georgia in 2001 and handed over to the US military. His lawyer claims he had low-level involvement in militancy and was not involved in combat against the US.
A second review was held on 28 February for Yemeni Sharqawi Al Hajj who was held in secret prisons and tortured for two years before being taken to Guantánamo.
At the same time, three prisoners who had their review board hearings under Obama had their pleas for release rejected: Yemenis Moath Hamza Ahmed Al-Alwi, Said Salih Said Nashir and Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman.
It is unknown whether five prisoners who have been cleared for release by the board will be released at any time soon or if the two prisoners heard this month will be released if their reviews are successful.
More than one month after becoming President, in spite of various comments made about Guantánamo, the facility is still running as it was under Barack Obama and there is no prospective date for the issue of Trump’s order on the future of Guantánamo and its prisoners.

The Trump administration has handed over a copy of the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report into CIA torture to a federal court following an order in cases brought by current Guantánamo prisoners. The Obama administration had previously refused to comply with the order.
A lawyer of one of the litigants, Abd Al-Nashiri, stated that it is “a big deal because we know that at least one copy will be preserved for future litigation.”

Germany’s new president Frank-Walter Steinmeier has entered his new post with controversy over his failure in 2002, as the politician responsible, to press for the release of Murat Kurnaz from Guantánamo even though the German and US authorities both knew he was an innocent man and Germany knew he had been tortured. Instead, the government initiated measures to prevent Kurnaz from returning to the country. Kurnaz did not return to Germany until 2006 and Steinmeier has never apologised for his role.


Extraordinary rendition:
Portugal jailed former CIA agent Sabrina de Sousa on 20 February pending extradition to Italy to serve a 4-year sentence for the 2003 kidnap and rendition to torture in Egypt of Milan imam Abu Omar. She is one of 26 CIA agents convicted in Italy in relation to the case, the only successful criminal case brought against renditions anywhere in the world.
On 28 February, Italy granted her clemency and reduced her sentence to 3 years. This means she can now consider alternative penalties to imprisonment. It is not clear if she has been released in Portugal.
De Sousa, 61, has fought extradition for two years and the victim Abu Omar himself has asked for her not to be extradited or to serve her sentence. He has never received an apology for official acknowledgement of his ordeal.

In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against two CIA-contracted psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, considered to be the architects of the rendition torture programme, the Trump administration has said that it will act like its predecessor by invoking the state secrets privilege to prevent two CIA witnesses from testifying in the case. One of the witnesses, Gina Haspel, was briefly involved in running a secret prison in Thailand where Abd Al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah were waterboarded. The government has until 8 March to file a declaration invoking the privilege. A hearing is scheduled in the case for June.

LGC Activities:
The LGC’s February Shut Guantánamo! demo marked 10 years of this regular protest outside the US Embassy. With 41 prisoners remaining at Guantánamo, the LGC remains committed to fighting for justice. The March demo is on 2 March at 12-1pm outside the US Embassy and 1.15-2.15pm outside Speaker’s Corner, Hyde Park:
The LGC joined the Stop The War Coalition’s 4 February Stop Trump’s Muslim Ban demo and march to highlight the fact that there has been a travel ban on Muslims at Guantánamo for over 15 years preventing the prisoners from leaving and if there is any place that needs a Muslim ban, it is Guantánamo Bay.

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